With COVID deaths well above the norm, NS seniors share their concerns
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued and the death toll rose, Nova Scotian Judy Aymar noted that provincial leaders ran out of condolences when new deaths were announced.
“These are real people,” she said. “These are people who, at some point in their lives, have started families, built communities, and helped build the province. Why have they become a statistic and not a person?”
The province’s COVID-19 briefings once began with updates on how many people had died and included expressions of condolences from the prime minister and chief medical officer of health.
But briefings have been discontinued. Updates on the state of the pandemic now come from a weekly update to the province’s COVID-19 dashboard, as well as monthly epidemiology reports.
The province says 753 people have died from COVID-19 – including 27 announced on Thursday. The mean age of death during the Omicron wave is 84 years.
Aymar, a 76-year-old retired social worker from Upper Tantallon, said Nova Scotians take pride in helping and supporting people in times of loss.
But she worries.
“Why have we, as Nova Scotians, accepted this silence?” said Aymar. “Why are we so silent seniors are still dying and why don’t we give them dignity and recognition and a thank you for everything they’ve done?”
Higher COVID death rates for seniors
Nova Scotians aged 70 and older have a death rate from COVID-19 that is 280 times higher than those under the age of 50, according to the province’s January epidemiological report.
Aymar said she thinks the province should have a day of recognition – not a public holiday – to pay tribute to the people who have died from COVID-19 and the contributions they have made.
Top doctor expresses condolences
In a provincial statement on Sunday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang that public health is reminding people to pay attention to their social activities and recommending people wear masks in crowded indoor places.
When people come into close contact with those who are at higher risk of serious illness, he urged people to “do your bit” and wear a mask.
“I want to offer my condolences to every single person who has lost a loved one to COVID-19,” Strang said.
“We know that the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of hospitalization and death, which is why it’s so important for Nova Scotians to continue to do the right things together to protect others.”
Strang said if sick people have to go out, they must wear a mask and shouldn’t visit anyone who is elderly, immunocompromised or a young child.
With Nova Scotia lifting COVID-19 restrictions, seniors are particularly at risk, said Robert Huish, an associate professor at Dalhousie University whose expertise includes global health ethics.
“It’s almost total confidence in the vaccine and in people’s own willingness to mask or stay home, so it’s shifted from that collective duty to individual choice and responsibility,” he said.
According to Huish, fatigue starts in public health campaigns and has reached this point in COVID-19.
“It’s moving to ‘I, well, I have to take care of myself’ and not take care of other people, although that’s all we’ve been worried about recently,” he said.
Bill VanGorder, Nova Scotia’s senior spokesman for CARP – formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons – said his organization remains concerned.
“COVID-19 is not over yet,” he said.
VanGorder said the group recommends masking in public, but said, “We hear from older people that they somehow feel a little bit stigmatized by wearing masks.”
He wants the province to increase its news around COVID-19 and the media to cover more about the pandemic.
VanGorder said that when COVID-19 made headlines every day, it created “tremendous stress and anxiety” for many older people.
“That wasn’t good either, but now … we seem to have gone the other way and we don’t hear about it as much as we used to, so there has to be a happy medium somewhere,” he said.
VanGorder said the province could put more information into the hands of seniors through the Nova Scotia Seniors Advisory Council, which represents more than 100,000 older Nova Scotians.
In Sunday’s statement, the province said the Department of Health and Wellness has been actively communicating with Nova Scotians about the importance of staying current on COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.
Since September, it has produced radio spots, print advertising in daily, weekly and monthly outlets, social media posts, and on-screen ads on Spotify and Access Nova Scotia.
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